SEO: From a Technical Exercise, to a Marketing Master Plan?

Mar. 20, 2013 | by Steve.Hutton

What is SEO? Is it a technical discipline that involves auditing website structures, researching search volumes & conversion rates, assessing code and sorting out URLs? Or is it a creative process leveraging brand power, content placement, working to establish online relationships and ultimately position products in front of the right users?

Well actually, it’s both.

Legacy SEO over the last decade had an over-reliance on specific key term focus – aiming to move up a website’s visibility for a limited set of key terms. This led to conversations down the pub about ‘what’s the best key term ranking you hold in Google’…

It’s not like that anymore and those days are long behind us. SEO is about improving overall visibility of a website across a portfolio of search queries that ultimately drive traffic from relevant users – a much bigger and far more holistic view. Not only is this far more sustainable, but leads to better conversion rates and traffic levels when executed correctly.

Think of it this way: One high-value key term can generate 10,000 visits a month, but 10 more relevant and niche key terms could provide the same 10,000 visits, but have a much higher conversion rate as the queries are a lot more specific, meaning the visitor is more likely to become a customer.

Taking a marketing led approach to SEO is essential in accomplishing this task. It’s not all about being a technical wizard, but understanding searcher behaviour and trends and knowing how a solid technical foundation can contribute towards an overall goal.

So is SEO a technical exercise, or a marketing master plan?

It’s about putting the right products in front of the right people

Marketing is all about putting what you have in front of the right people. If my experience in marketing taught me anything, it’s that your efforts are far more effectivewhen you target engaged individuals. These consumers are the people who are likely to spend money with you, or be interested in your brand, and it’s these people that natural search visibility works perfectly for.

This is smart marketing. It involves technical optimisation, but at the end of the day involves planning and understanding a brand’s target audience.

It’s data driven

Research and Insight drives everything we do. The web is a playground of statistics and we’re able to find out who is searching for what, and where. Analytics packages tell us what key terms  are driving traffic, what landing pages are converting well and other gems that help inform a strategy that will help a client’s business reach their objectives – whether that’s more sales, improved brand awareness in search, traffic, or just rankings.

Multi-channel attribution is also becoming increasingly powerful. A large proportion of people don’t just find a website through search and convert in the same session. They may visit through natural search for a term like ‘car insurance’, making the searcher aware of the brand, before visiting at a later stage through a paid advert that helps with the consideration stage of purchase, before coming back through a direct channel where the user finally converts. We must distribute some attribution for this sale to each channel. Traditional ‘last click’ tracking only looks at the last point of contact before sale, but data insight is becoming increasingly powerful as we can see user journeys between channels in order to work out how customers really use a multitude of touch points in a purchase journey.

Building your brand builds your power

Search engines like Google love brands. Brand power is becoming a more prevalent signal when it comes to working out website visibility. Your visibility often comes down to how much your brand is being talked about online. Even if there aren’t any links back to the site in the content mentioning your brand, the citation can help Google evaluate your reach and authority in your industry. Marketing your brand online in the same way as you do offline can get you a lot of coverage, and this can help you leverage SEO value.

Help Google see your brand is valuable, and provide users with what they are searching for and you’ll be onto a winning formula.

All kinds of mark-up

Mark-up involves adding extra lines of code into your HTML which is then relayed to Google and displayed in search results. Having correct mark-up can be a technical exercise, but it can really help your click through rate (CTR) in search, so all comes back to the bigger picture of marketing.

Take this search for ‘chocolate cake recipe’ as an example. Regardless of the actual ranking, which one do you think gets the most clicks?

Chocolate cake recipe

Enhanced listings are more eye catching, and position your product or brand more effectively than a standard listing. This is a great example of marketing advantage gained through technical implementation.


Creative minds can think up powerful strategies that connect products to the right audience in new and exciting ways but this needs to go hand in hand with technical expertise to maximise the effectiveness of campaigns.

Search Engine Optimisation falls under ‘Digital Marketing’ for a reason and as Google becomes more intuitive and the relationships people forge with brands and websites develop, a connected approach is more important than ever.

Technical implementation is informed by marketing insights in order to create a sound natural search campaign, and it’s for this reason that SEO marketing truly is digital marketing and not just a silo technical activity.

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    Comment (1)

    • Eilidh MacRae

      A really interesting post with some insightful points! Thanks for sharing this, really useful.Mar 22, 2013 10:41 am

    Please note: the opinions expressed in this post represent the views of the individual, not necessarily those of iCrossing.

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